Deb Matthews

Deb Matthews was Treasurer of Friendly Street Poets from 1997-1999, and co-edited the anthology # 23, Beating Time in a Gothic Space. Deb is currently doing a PhD in English, working as a librarian, and writing a novel for teenagers. She is also a committee member of the Children’s Book Council (SA).


In the restaurant
we cannot speak for ghosts.
Our tongues are folded linen
set among silver knives.
From a patch of limestone wall,
a ram’s dead yellow eyes
watch out of its severed head.
Yesterday’s breeze picks at your spine.

“Thirty years ago, this building was a ruin
in a field of tall grass,” your eyes say,
smelling pine needles, warm earth, the nearby sea,
you hid there, wagging school,
your eight year old back
tucked against the rough stone wall
where other years, other lives crumbled away.
“There were ghosts then too,” you say,
and your eyes are like mist
touching an open field.

From Friendly Street No. 19


Turning the fork through a mound of earth
found burnished bone rubbed white.
Fragment of vertebra
from two centuries’ burial
on this curved hump of hillside.

She turns old bone in flesh of palm;
measures with mind – human or animal.
Over whispers of wheatgrass,
calls to her husband
who raises his shovel high
and fingertaps the bone
between his eyes.

She hurls the shuttlecock of bone
which he hits against paddock and sky,
down the length of their land,
out of sight, out of mind.

From Friendly Street No. 12


The day her boyfriend came home from gaol
She spilled out onto the quiet street
In a sheer red dress
Which showed her flattened breasts,
Her bones.
And the mad edge of her laughter
Held itself to the neighbour’s throats.

They wished she would go back inside –
Lie on her bed with a bottle of gin;
Sit, in a haze, on the lounge-room floor
Flicking her lighter at a pack of burning cards.

The street could not contain
The riot of her voice;
Her stumbling red shape;
Her bare white feet on their bitumen road.

They preferred the hysteric of her screams
Bouncing off inner walls
Of crushed and shattered plasterboard.
There a fist or two,
There the crater of a skull.
A whole panel gone
Where he pushed her body through.

Their ecstasy lasted a day or two.

Then, at night,
They screeched in the yard
Like a pair of ill-matched cats
Tearing at cloth; at hair; at skin,
Drawing each other’s animal blood.

From Friendly Street No. 23